(BRANDON HANSEN/Managing Editor of the Chewelah Independent)
The final out of the Chewelah Cougar softball team bookended the school’s first season in the Class 2B Classification. As the girls finished up getting photos taken to the trophy, a sunburned, travel-weary self commented to new Statesman sports guy Taylor Newquist, who had to cover more games than I had to, “Boy, I think that’s enough softball until next year.”
And then it dawned on me, Chewelah had just finished its first year in the Class 2B ranks, a move that had caused a bit of hand-wringing. But I can tell that this move was successful on a multitude of levels.
Chewelah for years was one of the smallest teams in the Class A classification. This was a problem because the difference between a big or small school in Class A is wide, ranging from 214 to 461. This means the small schools might struggle to have a JV while other schools can field a varsity along with two developmental teams. As Geno Ludwig has said multiple times Chewelah was putting its freshman and sophomores up against school’s juniors and seniors and it was simply unfair.
Class 2B is still a somewhat “pure” classification in which it’s still essentially your school’s best athletes vs. the other school’s best athletes. A lot of 2B athletes are three-sporters because there is no need for specialization because you’re not going up against some 1A/2A/3A/4A athlete that plays a sport year round and goes to a former professionals workout camp every weekend.
One of my good friends who was a member of Chewelah’s last basketball state championship team watched the 2B basketball tournament and said it perfectly.
“It looks like you have a few full-on basketball players and the rest are athletes who want to play basketball,” he said.
And that isn’t a bad thing for small school high school sports.
Specialization is the scourge of youth sports and is ridiculous, but for Chewelah to be successful in the 1A level consistently across the board, we would have to turn our athletes into the drones from the Jean Claude Van Dam movie “Universal Soldier.”
Chewelah football made the final eight in the state and was a shoe-string tackle away from possibly advancing to the Final Four in the Tacoma Dome. Chewelah volleyball was a league power. Both Chewelah basketball teams were a win or two away from the state tournament. Wrestling brought home two state championships. The individual sports, where Chewelah still saw good results because it wasn’t reliant on team size, saw more kids advance deeper into the post season.
This spring saw baseball a win … nay an inning away from the state tournament, while track and field speak for themselves. Chewelah athletics has gotten back to “hey if you work hard, that will pay off in the end,’ instead of “hey if you work hard, we might be in the ballgame with one of these bigger schools for a bit.”
That is what was told to the public when the move was made: More Chewelah teams would be successful across the board. There would be fewer bad seasons and more good seasons. The 2018-19 school year has been across the board a very good season.
It’s easy to see why too; you have some hard-working and committed athletes, and some coaches that care the world about their sport.
Off the field, the school district is currently dealing with some budget issues and working to figure out the chaos that the McCleary Decision brought to the state. The kids have taken this more in stride than the adults and still see the Navy and White unis as a point of pride. While I keep seeing adults on social media trying to drag our community or any person they can point a finger at through the mud, I can’t help but be super proud of our town and our coaches, teachers and students.
With it being essentially summer now, we can take a breather and let some of the emotions simmer down. Judging from how the filing went for the school board elections, this November there are going to be many new faces. I think we should still be supportive of the current board, administrators, the teachers, coaches and the new people who will be moving into those board positions.
Anyone can sit behind a keyboard or cellphone and trash any one of these individuals or groups. It doesn’t accomplish much, however.
Our athletes out on the field were measured by results and they put in the work to get it done and get trophies. If you don’t like the current state of your community, then go out and get results, be more involved.
I think we’ve found a great new spot for our athletic programs in the 2B classification, but we now also have to focus on our district. It was tragic to hear teacher Sheena Rancourt talk about how she won’t be back in the school district next year, and I hope some day she will definitely get to teach here again. On the flip side, it was also heartening to talk to Robbie Thompson last week and hear there is a movement to start a high school-aged version of Stagetime Theatre and help fill the gap from the loss of the school’s drama classes. Thompson, a young man himself, wants to put in some directing with the simple goal of gaining even more theatre experience and giving back to the community. That’s the kind of people we need in town.
It is this kind of maturity and attitude that is going to make our community and school district move forward. When Rancourt spoke to the school board at their last meeting, she could have gotten negative with people and I don’t think anyone would have blamed her. She didn’t but rather just used it as an opportunity to voice her concerns. It’s this kind of attitude that needs to be noted and applauded.
The same goes for parents moving forward in our athletic programs. We need to be supportive and positive with our coaches no matter the outcome so they stick around and build programs. Being negative and trying to pull the rug out from under coaches only serves as a cancer for athletic programs in small schools. In my decade-plus experience of covering high school sports, the programs with a culture like that had the most losses and the students were the ones who suffered.
[Coaches don’t get paid nearly enough to deal with what they have to deal with when you add up the hours they put in.]
So lets take a cue from our athletes. Try to make the program you’re a part of better, don’t try and tear it down. We have a nice thing going on here in Chewelah, but there are going to be challenges. Let’s find the solutions together, roll up our sleeves and get to work because our students are already doing the heavy lifting.